If there were any Carolina Hurricanes fans who thought that Ron Francis would draft similarly to former GM, Jim Rutherford, they were quickly proven wrong on Friday night when the Canes selected big defenseman, Haydn Fleury, with the 7th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. The last time the Hurricanes selected a big defenseman was all the way back in 2005 when the team picked Jack Johnson, who as we all know, was traded pretty soon afterwards to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Hurricanes said they wanted to get bigger with this draft, and they certainly accomplished this goal by picking up the 6’3, 203 pound defenseman, who has been playing for the Red Deer Rebels the last three seasons. Overall, I have to say that I like this pick. Although he will take a few years to develop into a NHL-ready defenseman, Haydn Fleury is a pretty safe pick. He is a big man with a good two-way game that can also log a lot of minutes. Fleury was named the best defenseman at the 2013-14 U-18 World Junior Championships where he represented Team Canada. Although the offensive side of his game is still developing, Haydn Fleury should be a good top 4 defenseman for the Hurricanes in 2-3 years. The only reason I don’t absolutely love this pick is because I think the Hurricanes could have still selected Fleury if they traded down into the 9-12 range. Fleury is a solid pick, but I doubt other teams had him in their top 7, never mind their top 10. Better safe than sorry.
In the second round, Ron Francis and the Carolina Hurricanes made another somewhat surprising pick when they drafted a goaltender; I can’t remember the last time the Hurricanes selected a defenseman in the first round and a goaltender in the second round. Alexander Nedeljkovic has spent the last two seasons with the Plymouth Whalers (Mike Vellucci connection) and was named the 2013-2014 Goalie of the Year in the OHL. At the U-18 World Junior Championships, Alex helped lead the United States to a gold medal with his outstanding play. I love this selection, and honestly believe that Nedeljkovic can be a really good NHL goaltender one day. Although he may not have the best height, Alex is as athletic as they come and looks very promising.
In rounds 3-7, the Hurricanes selected Warren Foegele, Josh Wesley, Lucas Wallmark, Clark Bishop, and Kyle Jenkins. I was a little disappointed with the third round selection of Warren Foegele. Although he trains with Gary Roberts and seems to have a great work ethic for a young kid, there were definitely better players still available at 67. Foegele put up good numbers at St. Andrews, but also faced lesser competition; he plans to attend University of New Hampshire to play hockey in the Fall.
However, I was not at all surprised when the Canes selected Josh Wesley, son of Glen Wesley, with the 96th pick in the draft. You have to appreciate the bloodline and the fact that he is a homegrown talent. Let’s hope that Josh can have a career similar to his father.
Like many late round picks, Lucas Wallmark, Clark Bishop, and Kyle Jenkins are all long-term projects that the Hurricanes hope will pan out in the future. Wallmark played very well at the U-20 World Junior Championships last year for Sweden, notching 8 points in 7 games. Although he does not have great skating abilities, Wallmark has shown his offensive capabilities and responsibility in all three zones.
Clark Bishop is a high energy forward who has a willingness to compete and forecheck in the offensive zone. He had 33 points in 56 games last season with Cape Breton of the QMJHL. He projects as a future bottom six forward for the Hurricanes.
Finally, in the seventh round of the draft, the Canes selected defenseman, Kyle Jenkins, of the Soo Greyhounds. For most of this past season, Jenkins played with Canes prospect, Tyler Ganly on the second pair. Jenkins is a smart defenseman, but needs to gain strength and mobility in order to succeed at the AHL and NHL levels.
Overall, I’d give the Canes a solid B in terms of their draft day. Fleury and Nedeljkovic could become very familiar names in the NHL very soon. Unfortunately, this draft did not provide any immediate help for the team, but it did help the Canes gather a lot of young prospects to increase their future depth. Now the focus shifts to free agency, where hopefully Francis can continue to improve the team.